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Thread: Holon Publishing

  1. #1
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    Holon Publishing

    I tweeted about self publishing being complicated and mildly terrifying. Next thing I know someone's directed me to Holon Publishing (http://www.holon.co/). The website, very helpfully, contains no information on the people who work there, only on the authors they work with. As far as I can tell you have to hand over your email to get any kind of specifics. Does anyone have any experience with them, positive or negative?

  2. #2
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    Run. Run now. A good guide: is a publisher's website geared towards readers or authors? Publishers deal with readers. Authors are their business partners and have specific ways to connect with them that don't involve hilariously over-designed website landing pages. The whole thing is designed like a digital studio's site except they're trying to do book publishing and the end result is a massive mess--for both them and likely anybody who wants to publish a book effectively.

    I don't know why companies do the whole Twittering authors thing. It's basically the only red flag you need in order to run. Reputable publishers and agents don't need to advertise heavily for more submissions. If you're self-publishing, you're better off finding competent, qualified editors and designers and engaging with them directly. This won't get your book in bookstores. It won't do anything you can't do yourself with a little guidance and help from a couple self-pubbing veterans. I am not one of those fine people (as yet) but a lot of them do hang out in AW's Self-Publishing forum and I've learned a lot just lurking there.

  3. #3
    *lurk*
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    The fact that they offer web design and their website is that bad (all the images are broken, there's massive amounts of white space, and those invisible-until-rollover buttons are a really bad idea) tells me all I need to know. I would not expect them to be any better at publishing books. I mean, I'm a newb who's never moved beyond HTML and CSS, but at least I can make pages that work.

    Supposedly been around since 2011-2012. They have authors but I can't find a single book for sale on their website. That's either a design fail or a content fail.
    Twitter: @tiakall

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW aleighrose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiakall View Post
    The fact that they offer web design and their website is that bad (all the images are broken, there's massive amounts of white space, and those invisible-until-rollover buttons are a really bad idea) tells me all I need to know. I would not expect them to be any better at publishing books. I mean, I'm a newb who's never moved beyond HTML and CSS, but at least I can make pages that work.

    Supposedly been around since 2011-2012. They have authors but I can't find a single book for sale on their website. That's either a design fail or a content fail.
    Are we looking at the same website? I don't see any broken images or invisible-till-you-roll-over-them buttons. And I can clearly see the books they've published. Maybe something about the format isn't compatible with your browser.
    ~ Leigh

  5. #5
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    I didn't see broken. I did see over-designed, and designed like a web design studio and not a book publisher.

    It isn't geared to readers.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleighrose View Post
    Are we looking at the same website? I don't see any broken images or invisible-till-you-roll-over-them buttons. And I can clearly see the books they've published. Maybe something about the format isn't compatible with your browser.
    It's certainly possible that it's a problem with my browser (I'm on an old version of IE) but that's still a web design flaw. I'm not so outdated (e.g., Netscape Navigator) that compatibility shouldn't still be taken into account. If they weren't claiming to be web design experts, I'd have more sympathy, but if I was in the market, I wouldn't want a website that wouldn't show up properly for a chunk of my visitors.
    Twitter: @tiakall

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin RavennaTate's Avatar
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    Their covers are very amateurish-looking for a company that allegedly is also a design studio. I also agree with others that the site is not geared toward readers. There are no buy links for the books, even in the author profiles. No pricing anywhere that I can find, but just those covers alone would be enough to turn me off. You can find cover artists and editors easily on social media these days, and the reputable ones are happy to point you in the direction of their existing clients so you can see examples of their work before you commit.

    Oh, and I'm on a Mac using Safari, and the website looked fine to me as far as design and not too much white space, but there were no links embedded in the images.

  8. #8
    Old Hand in the Biz Barbara R.'s Avatar
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    They say Kickstarter is a big part of their business plan. Oy, big oy. Stay far away. Any publisher who approaches unpublished writers this way is just looking to drum up vanity-press customers.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Greetings, everyone!

    This is Jeremy Gotwals, the founder of Holon Publishing. I felt compelled to chime in and thank you for your comments, as well as respond with a few of my own. Before I alarm you (or the admins) I absolutely did not join this forum to solicit, by any means. I am a writer as well, and given the time, I would love to contribute to AW's forums. However, the representation of my company is extremely important, so I felt the need to join the conversation to clear the air.

    First, I'd like to say that this thread has provided helpful insights on how we need to improve our website at Holon, and our representation in general.

    Yes, we are long overdue for updated photos of our team members, updated photos of our authors, more information about our latest titles, and much, much more. We're well aware of the flaws of our website and have been mapping out the plans for an overhaul for quite a while. We've been making baby steps, because frankly, we've been too overbooked to overhaul our own website! To which you might inquire, "Then why do you have time to write this post?" The answer is that I can't afford to "not" make the time to respond to this, because today, branding is what people are saying about you when you're not in the room.

    A few comments:
    We do still have information about some of titles, and some of our titles are indeed available for sale on our website.

    Our website used to be more "reader-centric." Given the size of our team, we could not keep up with the daily orders through our site, so we scaled this back and focused on our Amazon sales (which are print-on-demand, thereby automating fulfillment completely) and empowering authors to sell directly. We also sell many books at our events and signings, besides our local wholesale efforts.

    It is our plan to focus more on making our content more directed at readers, in the future, but this is a long process.

    I would have to disagree that our website is "over-designed," however. Thank you anyway for this insight.
    Also, Tiakall, I think you might be having browser difficulties. Nevertheless, it's good for us to consider. We do not want people experiencing functionality difficulties - so we will have to look into why you may be seeing our website differently.

    RavennaTate - Thank you for the critique on our book covers. I will not bother being defensive on this note, rather, I will say that I've certainly seen worse, from companies who charge considerably more for cover design (*cough* the "Vanity Presses"). I have also seen worse from companies that are not self-publishing related at all, and do not charge for services.
    As stated above however, we do have our books for sale on our website.

    Barbara R. -
    I have encountered a lot of people who share your opinion about the use of Kickstarter in the publishing world. When authors cannot afford to pay for professional editors, designers, or marketing, we assist them in raising the money to do this with Kickstarter. It's fairly straightforward - and has worked for a few of our titles. Even some highly reputable publishers (McSwinney's) have used Kickstarter.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with using Kickstarter to cover costs, and it does not make us a vanity press. On the contrary, the very fact that we assist writers in raising the funds they need to publish rather than forcing them to pay out of pocket, makes us the opposite of a vanity press.

    Kickstarter democratizes the funding process for publishing and empowers readers with the ability to choose what they would like to see published.

    A bit more about our story, and our model:
    I founded Holon at the end of 2011 / beginning of 2012. We did not have investors, nor did we technically have "partners" other than the independent professionals we hired and strategic partners such as Ingram, who we use for distribution. It's been a rough and bumpy ride, with many close calls, and we certainly are not perfect, but we have come a very, very long way.

    Holon was founded with the purpose of disrupting the industry of self-publishing / traditional publishing, and that is exactly what we are doing.
    Very gradually. In smaller, grass-roots ways, first.

    We have had many happy authors who have sold many books, we have also had some unhappy authors over time, who did not sell very many books.
    We have had readers of our authors who were thrilled to buy their books, and buy other books with Holon. We have also had readers who were critical of our products.

    We do provide self-publishing solutions, but we also provide alternative hybrid-publishing solutions that we are still refining, such as solutions that involve the use of kickstarter, or that involve financing with the businesses in our community who pay for marketing with us. These alternatives either eliminate costs, or reduce costs, for authors to hire professional editors, designers, marketers, and for those authors to have their books available through our distribution network via Ingram. I do want to strongly emphasize, however, that we are not a vanity press. The very fact that there are no prices on our website, other than the prices of books for sale on our website, should be an indicator that we are not a vanity press.

    You are correct, however, we do need more information on our website. We have quite a bit of work to do!
    The fact that we have been going this long as a company and that this is still my full-time job should be an indicator that we have some idea of what we're doing. Obviously, however, there are some bad companies out there, so that is not always the case.

    In the meantime, if you want a better idea of "who we are" our facebook page has more regular / fresh content, if you take the time to scroll down.
    http://www.facebook.com/HolonPublishing

    We're building a community that has impacted a lot of lives. We hope to continue to do so.
    We'd like to believe that we've done some great work for people, otherwise we wouldn't still be around, and I wouldn't have a job.
    There's no question, however, we have a long way to go to be as great as we can be.
    Thank you all for your time.

    Best regards,
    Jeremy Gotwals
    Musician . Writer . Designer . Publisher . Entrepreneur
    www.JeremyGotwals.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Gotwals View Post
    Also, Tiakall, I think you might be having browser difficulties. Nevertheless, it's good for us to consider. We do not want people experiencing functionality difficulties - so we will have to look into why you may be seeing our website differently.
    Sure, it's an old browser. If you guys were just a publisher, or if it was funky but easy to navigate, I'd shrug and move on. It's not the first website that's gone out of whack on this computer. Because you guys are web designers, I hold you to a higher standard. But thanks for taking a look at it.

    I'm a little confused on your model, so let me make sure I've got this straight. You offer self-publishing services (cover art, editing, etc.) for which the author pays up front and then uses when they self-publish themselves, same way if they were to order services off Lulu and other such sites. You also offer "hybrid", which seems to be the same thing but helps the author finance with Kickstarter?

    If I'm wrong, spell it out to me plainly - I'm not through my first cup of caffiene yet.
    Twitter: @tiakall

  11. #11
    figuring it all out UnbearableLight's Avatar
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    If your direct sales were going well, why not hire someone to handle the storefront and grow that part of the business? That seems like an opportunity, not a distraction.

  12. #12
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Gotwals View Post
    Holon was founded with the purpose of disrupting the industry of self-publishing / traditional publishing, and that is exactly what we are doing.
    As a mission statement, this is rather odd.

    I can tell you that, as a writer, I'm looking for a publisher with the distribution and marketing know-how to get my books into readers' hands. Translated, that means sales, and money in my pocket in exchange for the work I did creating my novel.

    I don't see how "disrupting the industry" is going to accomplish that.
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  13. #13
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    "Disrupting the industry" literally doesn't mean anything. It's the language of technocapitalist bullshit, based on the assumption that "traditional publishing" doesn't "serve authors" and needs brave startup pioneers who lose money faster than they write mission statements to revolutionize the market so that all of this can be done on and by your phone, up to an including the writing of the book. Until the next gadget comes along, at which point everyone will be disrupted again, except by then there'll be a new bullshit word for it so that people spend more money of stuff they don't need.

    Forgive me, I get cranky when I read a lot of complicated words designed to obfuscate and confuse. I do think it's done in good faith and I appreciate Jeremy coming in here. That obfuscation can happen unintentionally, too, but it's still a massive red flag.

    We do provide self-publishing solutions, but we also provide alternative hybrid-publishing solutions that we are still refining, such as solutions that involve the use of kickstarter, or that involve financing with the businesses in our community who pay for marketing with us. These alternatives either eliminate costs, or reduce costs, for authors to hire professional editors, designers, marketers, and for those authors to have their books available through our distribution network via Ingram. I do want to strongly emphasize, however, that we are not a vanity press. The very fact that there are no prices on our website, other than the prices of books for sale on our website, should be an indicator that we are not a vanity press.
    Like this. I can't even parse that first section. Usually when a business plan is so vague that it can't be articulated properly it means there is no viable business plan. "We'll kickstart it!" doesn't count. Why would a GOOD editor work with you when there are no costs associated with that (and yes, I have worked for a company that hired editors off eLance for $5 a book)? What distribution do you have that isn't Ingram, because Ingram isn't a distribution system? Why do you need to strongly emphasize that you're not a vanity press when most publishers show this by not asking the author for money?

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Good morning, friends (I'm counting even the serious critics as 'friends' here too)!
    Apologies for the delayed response. I will carve out some time today to address each of your points / questions / comments.
    Thank you so much for this, additionally. This is very helpful and insightful, even if we are in disagreement about some points.
    Until then!

    Cheers,
    Jeremy Gotwals
    Musician . Writer . Designer . Publisher . Entrepreneur
    www.JeremyGotwals.com

  15. #15
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    I'm not as cranky this morning so I'll rephrase/expand my previous post.

    And yes, even serious critics are friends. That's what AW is for. It's also really good that you're taking this in stride, Jeremy. To some extent it's what this forum is for but you'll notice that the success stories around here (which turn into long recommendation threads) often start as places with some red flags and some critics. Not every house is for every author.

    Non-cranky Me tends to think that every potential company can offer something to the right person. Like I said above, I worked for what was basically a well-intentioned part-vanity/part-"traditional" small press and we did some good work for some people. We had some very happy authors, some of whom paid and some of whom we paid. We even had some decent sales... the irony being that the company's bestselling book was published in partnership with a conservation charity and we kept none of the proceeds.

    It was still a bad deal for almost all authors with a manuscript they poured time and soul into.

    So I don't doubt that Holon can work for certain books and certain people and do them well. Experimenting with new business models isn't an inherently bad thing, it's just a risk. That risk shouldn't be borne by authors who have already done the work, is my view. But that's a personal choice.

    What most authors with a manuscript should do is identify agents and/or publishers that fit what the book is. It makes a lot of sense to aim high at first because you never know who at a big house might like the story. Publishers that are trying to change the trade publishing model are therefore basically working off what's left, or off author's misconceptions/lack of confidence about bigger publishers. Sometimes there's a niche market, or in this case self-publishing is a good option for any number of reasons. Just know that a lot of authors will and should consider trunking the book before going to really small start-up presses with risks and not much track record--it's better to not publish than publish badly and it's always possible that the trunked MS can be brought out as a second or third book after another one sells.

    Apologies if I came across as sniping. Must have more tea earlier in the morning.

  16. #16
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    I doubt Mr. Gotwals is coming back to this, since it's been over a week, but in case he does:

    - The lack of prices makes you look more like a vanity press, not less. It suggests that if people saw the prices they wouldn't sign up.
    - You're a publisher. Your job is to put books in readers' hands. Why in the world would you take away the information those readers are looking for?
    - Why do your books only appear to come in print?
    - Why did you solicit me without a single clue as to the quality or even genre of my book? How can you suggest that you're a good fit for a book you don't know the first thing about?
    - Publish America and Author Solutions have been around longer than you. Longevity is no guarantee of quality.

    I'll be happy to read your response, if you make one.
    "Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

    In the Batman movies in the 60s, the Batmobile was designed to run on jet fuel. It looked cool and went fast but it could only run for about 7 seconds at a time. So now you know why a hyperactive project-hopping writer is called JetFueledCar.

    It's not a political Twitter, but I'm a political person, so it amounts to the same thing.

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